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Acupuncture or Dry Needling?

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According to the International Acupuncture Association of Physical Therapists (IAAPT):
Physiotherapists may practice needle insertion under any of the following paradigms: Traditional Asian Acupuncture, Western Acupuncture, and/or Trigger Point Dry Needling.Across Canada, and around the world, the insertion of needles is referred to by many different terms. We get people calling us requesting “dry needling” in particular, and others requesting “acupuncture”.

Traditional Acupuncture:
Utilization of meridian or extra points based on Chinese/East Asian traditional medicine approach which includes diagnosis and clinical reasoning using various Chinese/Japanese/Korean medicine assessment methods and/or paradigms. Utilization and integration within the context of physiotherapy will include a diagnosis based not only on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) paradigms but also on physiotherapeutic clinical reasoning as part of an overall management approach.

Western Acupuncture:
Western Acupuncture utilizes meridian points but applies it to Western scientific reasoning with direct consideration to neurophysiology, anatomy, and pathology. Other synonyms include medical acupuncture / biomedical acupuncture. It does not utilize any TCM assessment methods. Utilization and integration within the context of physiotherapy will include diagnosis based on physiotherapeutic clinical reasoning as part of an overall management approach.

Trigger Point/Dry Needling: 
Trigger Point / Dry Needling is defined as rapid, shorter needling to altered or dysfunctional tissues in order to improve or restore function. This may include (but is not limited to), needling of myofascial trigger points, periosteum, and connective tissues. This is a practice utilized by both traditional and Western acupuncturists. Utilization and integration within the context of physiotherapy will include a diagnosis based on physiotherapeutic clinical reasoning as part of an overall management approach.

Integrated/Sustained Dry Needling: 
The use of acupuncture needles as a tool to facilitate physiotherapy treatment, with direct consideration to neurophysiology, anatomy, and pathology, but without the utilization of traditional acupuncture philosophies and acupuncture points.

Which type of needling is used to treat your pain will be determined by how you and your therapist approach your problem and your therapist’s expertise.

[The above information was taken from documents of the Acupuncture and Dry Needling Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.]

More information on acupuncture and dry needling

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